In an effort to promote wellness and mental health, we are pleased to introduce our Windows on Wellness series. Throughout the series, our lawyers and staff will discuss their biggest wellness challenges over the past year, and habits they’ve adopted or resources that have been valuable in improving their mental and physical wellbeing.
Cynthia Cole, Partner and Deputy Department Chair of the Corporate Section in the Palo Alto and San Francisco offices, reflects on her wellness journey during the pandemic:
What has been your biggest wellness (mental, emotional, or physical) challenge over the past year, and how have you addressed it?
Cynthia: Boundaries. With two teenagers doing online school in adjacent rooms and my work station at home, I have found it very difficult to not over work while moving in and out of caretaker mode—to all hours of the day and night. It is challenging to turn the outside off and take time for myself.
What has been your biggest wellness (mental, emotional, or physical) triumph over the past year, or what wellness achievement are you most proud of?
Cynthia: Hiking around the Bay Area has been my greatest relief and wellness achievement. I hiked over 400 miles in 2020. I usually hike alone, often in areas with no cell service. I take a small pack, water and a snack, and I go somewhere different almost every weekend. There is such a richness in the biodiversity here in Northern California—Pacific Ocean to mountain peaks, sweeping vistas dotted with redwood forests that are surging with wildlife and wildflowers. I note my wild animal and my wildflower sightings, but I don’t track my miles very well. I like the feeling of being on a hike and being just a little lost. Not knowing what is around the bend. The physical exertion combined with the beauty of my surroundings is incredibly healing. I have to say that I wasn’t surprised when my Dad, who lives in Arizona, asked to track my whereabouts on my phone.
How does a commitment to your personal wellness make you a happier person or better professional?
Cynthia: It fosters balance and perspective.
What wellness habits have you adopted over the past year? What wellness habits would you like to adopt?
Cynthia: Aside from hiking and walking every day, I have a day-dreaming habit (napping too). Even thirty minutes of deep breathing and letting my mind wander refreshes and refocuses me.
What recommendations do you have for others to improve their mental or physical health, resilience, or emotional wellbeing?
Cynthia: When I am feeling disappointed or just lackluster about life, I go to the prettiest backyard nature view in my house. I sit up against a pillow and look outside. I acknowledge what I am sad about—I don’t try to bury it but I counterbalance it with something that I am thankful for. Even if the only thing that comes to mind in that moment is the beautiful view of my backyard, it works as a little victory of gratitude. And I find that those little victories of gratitude add up over time. The list gets longer because the more I do it, the easier they come to mind the next time. Gratitude is a muscle that I try to flex daily.
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